Thoughts

This is my Online Presence

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Reading Time
8-10 mins
Word Count
1.4k approx.
Preface

Everyone is allowed to have a digital space on the web—a personal website. The internet is a place like a galaxy so vast that contains hundreds of thousands of websites. Once you created one, it’ll be one of the stars in the night sky. Every website is so close, yet so far away. But they can be connected with just a few clicks. It defines your own existence in digital reality. A blank canvas for you to tell stories, publish your thoughts, showcase your creativity. Your personal website tells who you are.

The way I design this site kind of reflects my aesthetic taste. I’m trying to keep things simple. This is my online presence.

My take on minimalism

Simplicity isn’t just about stripping out everything in the layout. You could do that. But it’s more than just plain text on a background. It’s about the balance of text and white space. You remove all <div>s and styling then call that minimalism? Hell no. You gotta put your own spin on it.

Grids, typography and alignment

What’s the meaning of a website that doesn’t have content? What a website usually consists of? They’re text, images, and graphical elements such as icons—all sorts of information. The question is, how are you going to arrange those information into the layout?

In print design, things are a little bit simpler (layout-wise). For instance, an A4-sized paper is 210 x 297mm, a fixed size. It’s a canvas for you to present the content. The content you put into the layout is determined by your decision. You’re free to do almost anything in that given space. The typefaces you pick, the font sizes of it, font weight, leading, colors, alignment, etc. It’ll always have a reason. What to do, where and how to arrange the information, should be your intent. Everything within the layout has to serve a purpose. You as a designer, have absolute control over it.

Thing is, we can’t just put everything randomly into the layout. It’ll be chaotic. That’s why we’ve grid systems. Grids are invisible lines and frames for organizing a layout. Creating margins, columns, rows, gutters for a document is to guide the audience to read. To arrange those information and put them in order—aligning headings, paragraphs and images that flow into the grids. To create visual hierarchy and rhythms with proper font sizes, spacing, proportion and structure. Ordering the disorder.

On the other hand, designing for screens will be more complicated. Various screen sizes on different devices and orientation add an extra layer of complexity. But you can still apply those design principles in web design. The viewport—the browser window is the canvas. You can build layouts through HTML and CSS. Remember the famous CSS Zen Garden? You could do so much with just the basic HTML structure and style it with CSS.

How I achieve a minimalist design

This site is designed in a way to evoke nostalgia. I’m trying to recreate the good ole 960 Grid System using CSS display: grid. It’s an attempt to use a typographic approach for the design with different scale of text. I pay a lot of attention to alignment and typography. The layout is divided into two columns with horizontal lines at the top of each column. I love to have more white space, to let the design breathe. I admit it won’t win any design awards though.

However, I’m still figuring out how to make better use of the sub-column. Maybe something with position: sticky. Also, trying to implement fluid type scale. Let’s see how it plays out in the future.

To me, minimalist design is the combination of typography, alignment and the use of white space. Those elements alone can achieve visually stunning layouts. You add nothing more to the layout but to maintain a balance between elements. That’s the beauty of simplicity. It seems nothing special when your first glance at it. But when you look closely, one can tell the level of attention to detail. I’m afraid I’m nowhere close to what I really want to achieve. At the very least, I hope I translated my aesthetic taste, criticism, and judgment into the design.

Everyone has their approach to minimalism. I’m working towards mine. The content is the building block of your site. If you like minimalist design, first let the content speaks for itself.

Define my own existence

Most people nowadays rely solely on social media like Facebook or Twitter as their online presence. But building a personal website is an idea that fascinates me. One can have a persona representing themselves online. It’s so much more than a profile page on social platforms. Even if you don’t use a real name, the website you created and the content on it reflects your personality, aesthetics, creativity—it’s all personal. You can truly and freely express yourself.

Build a site of your own and start blogging. But why bother?

Staying relevant

I no longer work as a designer. Not working full-time. But still, want to stay relevant. I’ve an urge, always itching to create things. I’ve got a habit to criticize everything I’ve seen. Admittedly, I want to stay in the game very badly somewhere deep inside my soul. I started to question my own existence. Without a career, not working in a design agency, do I still count as a designer?

It’s important to me! Alright? Maybe not to you, or your cynical friends whose only ambition is to go viral. But to me... To me... this is - God. This is my career, this is my chance to do some work that actually means something.

— Riggan, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

This somehow reminds me of a film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) from 2014. I’ve watched it over five times over the years. The scene where Sam (Emma Stone) with her dad Riggan (Michael Keaton) hits me very hard. I’m not yet in my mid-life crisis, not that old, but I felt relatable.

...Nobody gives a shit but you. And let’s face it, Dad, it’s not for the sake of art. It’s because you just want to feel relevant again. Well, guess what? There’s an entire world out there where people fight to be relevant every single day, and you’re acting like it doesn’t exist! Things are happening in a place that you willfully ignore, a place that has already forgotten you.

— Sam, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

It resonates with me like she’s talking to me. I still want to design things, to be able to feel relevant again. Without a design portfolio or a social media account—I do not exist.

No one cares who I am. Nobody’d even bothers reading my so-called writings. Why do I still want to blog? Why took the effort to set up a personal site?

Because I’m fighting to be relevant, again.

You’re not important

“You’re nobody but a small potato.” I actually enjoy being one. If you ask me, I’m confident in my aesthetic taste and judgment. I’ve my take on design. But you don’t necessarily have the needs to prove it to anyone.

I mean who the fuck are you? You hate bloggers. You mock twitter. You don’t even have a Facebook page. You’re the one who doesn’t exist. You’re doing this because you’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter. And you know what? You’re right. You don’t. It’s not important. You’re not important. Get used to it.

— Sam, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

Important or not doesn’t really matter. I suppose you’re not trying to win a Nobel prize. Blogging is my answer to that. I don’t write for others, instead, I do it for myself.

Okay. I admit that I long for the day when my 15 minutes of fame becomes real. I don’t want to be famous but to have a chance to be able to “show off”, finally. I’m afraid the day might never come.

Everyone should make their own website

I stumbled upon a blog post “You should blog” by Dušan, one of the neighbors from Fediring. It pretty much answered all my questions. I agree wholeheartedly. But I want to extend it a bit more. Not only to blog but to build a personal site from scratch.

What intrigues me is the concept of “having your own voice published”, and owning the content yourselves. You can talk about anything or nothing. It can be so personal like talking in your very room. Your domain is your home address. You build your own house, decorate it, live in it, and have control over it. Don’t rely on Big Tech platforms. Do your own thing.

I hand-coded every line of HTML and CSS for this site. It’s completely static. Every time I write a post, I update everything manually. Please, don’t expect everyone can code. Despite that, I still want to blog.

Go start building your site and blog. I’ve no idea what it will lead to. But this is fun, wouldn’t you agree?